More Than a Mexican Problem
by Michael Osborne
Sharing 1,933 miles of border with the United States, Mexico is a foreign policy concern for the US government based on its sheer size and proximity. Mexico is also a crucial trading partner with the US. In 2012, U.S. exports to Mexico accounted for 14 percent of overall U.S. exports and Mexico was the United States' third largest supplier of goods imports. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2012 Mexican-Americans accounted for nearly 11 percent of the US population. The US-Mexico border has more people cross it annually than any other border in the world. Given so many significant relationships, the strategic implications of Mexico's security and stability are inherently obvious. Yet the US is inexplicably passive in regard to an enormous problem sitting right on its doorstep: the violence and growing power of Mexican drug cartels.
Since 2006, more than 60,000 people have been killed in Mexico at the hands of drug trafficking organizations . That's a number greater than the KIAs the US suffered in Vietnam. Drug trafficking organizations control vast areas of Mexico, using violence as a bartering tool and bribing authorities at all levels of the government."Barbarous murders, military-like firefights, rampant corruption, a traumatized citizenry, and high-stakes political gamesmanship frame Mexico's ongoing challenges." Given the enormous number of Mexican immigrants in the US, it may only be a matter of time before US law enforcement, rather than Mexican law enforcement, is at war with the narco-kings of Mexico. Based on the foregoing, the US must begin a serious dialogue with the Mexican government to propose long-term solutions to the grave situation in which the police and military forces as well as the people of Mexico find themselves.
The US can begin to analyze the Mexican problem by examining Plan Colombia which, although encompassing a vast myriad of political, economic, and military goals, significantly reduced violence in that troubled country. Plan Colombia, crafted in 1999, was America's primary instrument for providing aid to the government of Colombia. It focused primarily on the provision of military and law enforcement assistance, but it has furnished other kinds of aid as well. At the same time, as Colombia has become less of an American focus, Mexico is becoming an unavoidable concern because of the high rate of lawlessness and conflict occurring in the US's own"backyard." Given its long and costly involvement in Colombia, the question necessarily follows: How can the US most effectively apply lessons learned from the execution of Plan Colombia to support the Government of Mexico's (GOM) efforts to curb violence in Mexico?
Most Americans are vaguely aware that Mexico is currently a violent place. US policy makers are somewhat more aware, yet they have done little to address the problem. Lamentably, even fewer Americans are aware of why Mexico is violent and more importantly for the US, what that could spell for American interests. During the third presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in October 2012, Latin America, incredibly, was mentioned only once and Mexico was never specifically mentioned. This left many in Latin America dumbfounded."As [former President] George W. Bush rightly said, Mexico is the US's most important bilateral relationship. A presidential debate should focus on whether the United States is doing enough --and doing the right things -- to assist Mexico [and Central America] deal with its drug-fueled crime and violence," said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. Shifter continued,"If the US is not prepared to do everything possible to stand up for its closest neighbors and allies, then how could it have a credible foreign policy more broadly?" An even more pressing question should be asked: If the US is not prepared to do everything possible to prevent Mexico from becoming a war-torn, criminal-controlled, perhaps failed state, what internal threats to law and order will the US soon be scrambling to control within its own borders?
Understanding complex drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) requires understanding the landscape that fostered their rise. The details and historical legacies that make Mexico a corrupt state are beyond the scope of this study, but Mexican corruption is undeniably a major underlying cause of the operational freedom the cartels now enjoy. In"Drug Lords and Narco-Corruption: The Players Change but the Game Continues", Peter A. Lupsha observes,"It is impossible to identify a beginning date for corruption Mexico, for it is as eternal as the Aztec sun." That was written in 1991, long before the cartels possessed the kind of power they hold today. Turn the clock forward twenty-three years to 2014 and, for Mexicans, it now is necessary to cooperate with the drug lords or risk a violent death. The institutional infection of corruption penetrates every level of government in Mexico. Any noticeable reform can be expected to take many years, perhaps decades. Defeating the lawless plague that has engulfed Mexico will cost the lives of drug traffickers, Mexican government officials, and most regrettably, innocent Mexican citizens.
The US cooperated with several Latin American countries at an earlier point on the issue of drugs as part of its broader"War on Drugs." While the problems in Mexico run much deeper than drugs, past joint operations can offer starting points and partial solutions to initial concerns before engaging with Mexico. The most extensive of these operations, widely referred to as Plan Colombia, was directed against the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) insurgency and cocaine production/trafficking. Although American involvement there is fading, Colombia was the major recipient of US assistance to Latin America during the War on Drugs and thus offers the best model to future American undertakings south of the border.
Although this paper will address possible solutions to Mexican instability caused by the cartels, the proposed solutions will involve mostly Mexican actions based on Plan Colombia. This study will not, however, examine every aspect of Plan Colombia. Instead the paper will closely examine just two main positive aspects of Plan Colombia which can serve to inform a US policy for assisting Mexico. Thus, drawing on the US experience with Plan Colombia, the present study will focus on the success of the clear-hold-build strategy as it pertains to special operations and the procurement of useful equipment for fighting counterinsurgency to include helicopters, drones, and signals intelligence.
This study will argue the US currently lacks a coherent strategy for strengthening the GOM's ability to combat DTOs operating within its borders. Washington is vaguely aware of the various elements of the drug trade and their plausible effects on the US, but little is being done to bring down the larger machine that keeps the wheels turning."Although the U.S. government is currently implementing measures to address the separate pieces of this problem -- for example, deploying National Guard units to the border -- it has yet to craft a truly comprehensive domestic and foreign strategy to confront the inter-related challenges of trafficking and violence reaching from the Andean Ridge to American streets." Currently, the Mérida Initiative is the only major American response to the violence in Mexico. The Mérida Initiative is a partnership between the United States and Mexico to fight organized crime and associated violence while furthering respect for human rights and the rule of law.  Given the current levels of violence and influence of the cartels, the Mérida Initiative is not enough. Furthermore, its provisions are very shallow and unambitious given the array of issues facing the GOM. Mexico continues to spiral downward as drug-related conflicts engulf large parts of the nation.
More promising alternatives for Mexican security challenges as they affect American interests may be gleaned from a number of lessons learned from Plan Colombia. These concepts can be modified for the Mexican situation, but Plan Colombia offers more than positive experiences. Among the"lessons learned" associated with Plan Colombia are key failures that must not be repeated in Mexico. But in spite of these shortcomings, Plan Colombia in the main represents a model of a successful counterinsurgency effort in Latin America and of effective cooperation and training between American military/police forces and those of the host nation. The replication of Plan Colombia's development of robust special operations capabilities and military aid programs to provide Mexican security forces with enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities can lay the foundation for a more secure Mexico. Specifically, the special operations capabilities of the Colombian military and police coupled with American technology and hardware enhanced Colombia's COIN ability.
The history of Plan Colombia must be understood before applying lessons learned from its execution to the contemporary situation in Mexico. Plan Colombia was initiated in 2000. The US government at that time identified the pressing issues facing the Colombian government as follows: promoting the peace process between the FARC and the Colombian government, combating the narcotics industry, reviving the Colombian economy, and strengthening the democratic pillars of Colombian society. While Plan Colombia included a wide array of initiatives aimed at assisting the Colombian government, its main focus was military assistance and money to combat drug trafficking in the region. This is one reason it is applicable in Mexico: both countries have had to face DTOs whose power has grown so immense that they threaten national security. But Plan Colombia represented a choice. In contrast, the US has no option but to become involved with the drug war in Mexico, because Mexican violence has already begun to spill over the border. Mexican cartels also have a significant presence in major US cities, making the power, money, and ruthlessness of Mexican cartels a threat to many US neighborhoods.
Plan Colombia has never been officially terminated but, from a US perspective, its importance has declined as Colombia has become a less violent and much safer country than at the height of its war against the FARC in 2002. Security training and intelligence gathering capability, assisted by the US, have laid the groundwork for a much more secure Colombia:
Thanks to the strengthened capacity of Colombia's security forces and vastly improved intelligence capabilities, kidnappings declined between 2002 and 2009, from nearly 3,000 to just over 200 annually, and killings were reduced by nearly half in the same period ….By heading off what seemed to be the collapse of the Colombian state, and avoiding the ensuing chaos and uncontrolled violence, U.S. foreign policy furthered its goals in the hemisphere of protecting democracy and defending human lives.
Plan Colombia's main successes that could be adapted for Mexico include the special operations capability that helped foster its population-centric counterinsurgency (COIN) component and the associated military training and financial aid programs. More specifically, the outcome achieved in Colombia illustrates a successful execution of the clear-hold-build strategy with American training and financial aid playing important support roles. In Mexico, this aid must take the form of ISR platforms giving the GOM better intelligence and increased situational awareness. No less important, in the end, it was the Colombians who were cleaning up their own country, not the"gringo imperialists". In the case of Mexico, forcing the cartels to become increasingly cautious due to the pressure applied by special operations raids, constant monitoring by drones and other ISR platforms, all used as part of a nation-wide COIN campaign will severely limit their freedom of operations and eventually dent their checkbooks.
The first step to resolving a problem is admitting that a problem exists. American policy makers are increasingly aware of the violence in Mexico. The real difficulty here is that no one seems to understand its significance or how to stop it. The US must also take care not to misdiagnose what is occurring in Mexico. The cartels are not a united band of thugs against which conventional military force can be employed. What makes the diverse and fractious Mexican cartels tick is simple: el dinero.
Logically, cutting off the drugs that produce the cartels' profits would cripple them. Unbeknownst to many, the cartels can turn a profit moving things other than drugs. They are logistical experts. Cartels can turn a profit moving humans, guns, and anything else illegal that isn't a drug. This is why the decades-old drug war strategies employed by the US in Latin America must be re-assessed in the case of Mexico. Drugs are the DTO's most profitable venture, but the vast territories they control in Mexico allow them to exploit the government, private businesses, and nearly anyone wanting to survive within territories under their control. In effect, the cartels can be seen as insurgents pushing not a political agenda, but a financial one. Thus, in the opinion of US Army Major Christopher Martinez, Mexico currently has a"commercial insurgency" on its hands. Both the American, and especially the Mexican governments, must recognize the implications of such an insurgency before they jointly implement a strategy to combat the cartels. Specifically, the power, wealth, and vast reach of the cartels must be realistically assessed as well as how the cartels maintain those strengths. Acceptance of the Mexican situation as more than junkies and thugs south of the border, something more than a Mexican problem, and indeed, defining the cartels' activities as constituting an insurgency is critical to moving forward. Major Martinez puts it this way,"As history has shown, counterinsurgencies become long wars when nations fail to recognize the onset of an insurgency or apply conventional tactics in ﬁghting it. The US and Mexico can avoid this trap if they develop a strategic plan that acknowledges transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) for what they are, commercial insurgencies."
After more than a decade of limited results in Afghanistan and a hellish experience in Iraq, the writing on the wall for the American public seems clear: the best way to win counterinsurgencies is to not fight them. The only COIN campaigns that seem absolutely necessary are those that exist inside one's own country. Mexico's commercial insurgency does indeed rest within its borders and the power of the cartels constantly expands. The nature of cartel operations in Mexico differs from illegal drug operations in the US where drug dealers operate largely under the radar to avoid arrest. Mexican cartels have been able to clear entire towns in order to support their operations. Mexico has no choice but to begin reclaiming the country and establish order. Indeed, a clear-hold-build type COIN campaign is what is required.
Plan Colombia: Mexico
The clear-hold-build strategy employed in COIN operations as part of Plan Colombia can be modified for application in Mexico. Colombia offers a viable blueprint that, with proper adjustments, could offer a way ahead for Mexico and ultimately for the US. The clear-hold-build strategy is a basic COIN strategy in which the counterinsurgents try to: (1) clear the area by destroying, capturing, or forcing the withdrawal of insurgent combatants, (2) hold the area with security forces, ideally host nation (HN) forces, in order to effectively reestablish a HN government presence at the local level, and (3) build support for the HN government by protecting the populace and improving economic, social, cultural, and medical needs. It was fulfillment of those three objectives that led to military success in Colombia. And it is Colombia that must be used as a blueprint for Mexico to begin clearing that nation of cartels."For those who insist that the U.S. must fight and win counterinsurgency wars around the globe, Plan Colombia provides the most plausible -- and perhaps the only -- example of the efficacy of the clear-hold-build sequence." While Plan Colombia did not end the Colombian Civil War outright, it helped decimate the ranks of the FARC. The Colombian government currently estimates the FARC to have 7,168 members, down from 20,766 in 2002. Thus, a recent Colombian government-sponsored study concluded that"the main concern of the FARC is the preservation of the force." The same could be said for the cartels in Mexico. While profit is their main center of gravity, it is membership and manpower that drives this profit. De-incentivizing cartel membership via stronger security and reliable government forces will force drug lords to try and do more with less as well as isolate them amid a dwindling number of followers.
Special operations were a center of gravity in the military aspect of Plan Colombia. They were crucial as part of the military and police efforts to eliminate the FARC. This success encourages the application of special operations against the cartels with the US playing a similar role. According to New York Times reporter, Mackenzie Eaglen,"Under Plan Colombia, American aid and advisers, mostly special operations forces, helped Colombian security forces fight FARC rebels and their drug trafficking allies. Colombia was able to recover and today stands as one of Latin America's most influential success stories." The US was able to successfully train Colombian special operations forces to conduct the campaign themselves in 2000. Now, in 2014, the American special operations machine arguably is even more capable than in 2000. Counterterrorism and COIN experiences in the Middle East and Southwest Asia have sharpened the skills of American special operators and would enable them to train Mexican special operations to an even higher degree of proficiency than was achieved in Colombia. Furthermore, Colombian special operations, independently effective in their own right, could be used to train security forces in Mexico, leaving the US to play largely an advisory role. This would leverage the shared language of Colombia and Mexico and further reduce the American footprint, an encouraging development to any Mexicans who still view the Mexican-American War as a"US Invasion." The Colombians have already demonstrated their proficiency on a number of occasions such as when they rescued three American contractors in 2008, as described by Linda Robinson:"In 2008, after a prolonged manhunt across the country's southern wilderness, Colombian commandos rescued three American contractors who were being held hostage by FARC guerrillas. U.S. technology and training helped, but it was the Colombians who devised and carried out an elaborate deception operation that rescued the hostages. The achievement served as a very public demonstration that Colombia's special operators were ready for prime time." What the US needs to help protect its borders is for Mexican special operations to be ready for"prime time".
The development of Mexican special operations capability will be neither easy nor rapid. However, the potential dividends cannot be understated. The US now conducts small-unit raids and manhunting operations with relative frequency and generally positive results. Most notably, the 2011 mission that killed Osama bin Laden illustrated just how far US special operations forces have come.  The lengthy nature of the training process must not dissuade the ever-impatient American public and government from beginning to invest in the capability of Mexican special operations forces, drawn from both its military and civilian police. The longer the US waits to begin to employ such a strategy, the more challenging and bloody the situation future Mexican special operators will have to face, making the eventual US involvement more desperate and costly.
A large part of the US contribution to Mexico's COIN campaign will be military aid, equipment, and training. The US must be willing to foot the bill for some of Mexico's security investments. Sales and aid packages and ISR platforms such as drones and electronic surveillance will be critical. Drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-170 Global Hawk will provide Mexican security forces with live actionable intelligence and greater strike capability. Because this is a Mexican campaign, the Mexicans will need to provide an accurate analysis of the platforms, training, and other tactical assets they require.
ISR capabilities, specifically drones and signals intelligence capability, will greatly bolster the GOM's fight against the cartels. With listening technology and a heavy presence of drones, Mexican forces will be able to constantly monitor suspected cartel members and strike them if necessary. Furthermore, this pressure will force cartels to be more creative and take fewer risks, to include moving less frequently, communicating less via email and cell phones, and ultimately reducing the amount of product they move. Over twenty years ago, for example, US technology proved decisive in the capture and later killing of Colombian drug lord and one of the richest men in the world, Pablo Escobar, in 1993. A highly secretive intelligence gathering unit from the US Army known as"Centra Spike" used radio triangulation technology to assist Colombian forces in pinpointing Escobar's location. The intelligence they gathered was passed along to Colombians who then acted on it with kinetic strikes. It was crucial in dismantling Escobar's network. Such a relationship between American and Mexican forces could be an excellent starting point for a partnership against DTOs.
More recently and under the auspices of Plan Colombia, a National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping package significantly bolstered Colombian commandos' situational awareness and intelligence in prosecuting FARC targets:"Most every operation relied heavily on NSA signal intercepts, which fed intelligence to troops on the ground or pilots before and during an operation. 'Intercepts . . . were a game changer,' said [William] Scoggins [counternarcotics program manager at the U.S. military's Southern Command], of U.S. Southern Command." The NSA can play a similar role in Mexico, using its unmatched signals intelligence capabilities to listen to communications between suspected targets. Drones, such as the aforementioned MQ-9 Predator, could then follow the target for as long as is deemed necessary. The Predator also possesses the ability to launch missiles, killing any targets that cannot be allowed to escape. The employment of American drones in the sky, operating under Mexican instructions, would be much more politically feasible than American boots on the ground. However, the eventual goal should be the independent operation by Mexico of American-built drones. Such operations with drones have proven to be an excellent complement to special operations both in Iraq and Afghanistan. As both Mexican special operations capabilities and drone coordination evolve, combining command and control and increasing the speed with which Mexican personnel can act, the cartels would find themselves subjected to a growing amount of pressure. The real-time intelligence provided by drones allows special operations to rapidly deploy and strike time-sensitive targets. This combination of communication interception by the NSA, constant monitoring and reconnaissance by drones, and rapid strikes by special operators would serve as the opening round of what can be expected to be a longer war waged by Mexico and the US against DTOs.
Turning back to Colombia, although the FARC's military capability was crippled, cocaine production there was not. Furthermore, as discussed earlier, profit-minded drug lords move more than narcotics. In Colombia, it was military action and profit depletion that deal the biggest blows to the FARC. The RAND Corporation reached a similar conclusion:"In Colombia, strategic cooperation and large amounts of U.S. aid failed to stem the production of narcotics. Nearly two-thirds of global cocaine continues to be produced in Colombia. Yet it is undeniable that Plan Colombia, an eight-year strategic initiative providing $6 billion in U.S. aid, succeeded in depriving the FARC rebels of drug profits by strengthening the Colombian military and police to target violent traffickers." Simple economic analysis shows that declining profits, combined with rising risks of operation would disrupt the cartels' current business model.
The chief counterargument to be raised against the case which this paper presents is that whatever success was achieved in Colombia is not replicable anywhere else due to the specifics of Colombia at the time Plan Colombia was initiated. Writing in 2010, Dr. Forrest Hylton writes:
"This paper has argued that at an astonishing cost in human lives and livelihoods, counterinsurgency has worked in Colombia and will not anywhere else for several reasons. First, the FARC never represented more than a fraction of the peasantry -- settlers on the southeastern agrarian frontier -- much less the urban working class or fractions of the middle class. They never formed a viable pole of leftist nationalism, andwere encircled by the new right under Uribe. Second, U.S. soldiers never fought and died in Colombia, and the Colombian armed forces have grown enormously whenever the U.S. government has focused on counterinsurgency, as in the 1960s and the 2000s."
While Plan Colombia did cost many lives, it is certainly arguable that it was worth the cost, given current levels of relative stability. Insurgencies that are allowed to fester before being confronted will always cost more blood and treasure for the host nation to defeat. The alternative is to let the cartels rule. That is why Mexico and the US must act now. The social differences that Hylton mentions are not applicable to Mexico, which is why this paper has avoided conflating the FARC and Mexican cartels as similar organizations or as having similar goals. Their differences in modus operandi and organizational objectives must be understood. Hylton's second claim seems to assume that most nations are not capable of waging COIN on their own, which is a hasty assertion. Although the US should not participate in direct action against the cartels in Mexico, it can supply aid, training, and technology much in the same way it did in Colombia, which facilitated indigenous forces to accomplish their goals.
This study has largely ignored the issue that has helped foster the plummet of Mexican national security: corruption. Sustainability of any of the aforementioned objectives will depend on a credible Mexican government that is sufficiently free from corruption to make lasting gains against the cartels. Corruption is the biggest hindrance to a functional Mexican police force and military. Many of the dedicated lawmen and soldiers of Mexico cannot perform their jobs due to corrupt commanders. Furthermore, these Mexican patriots are afraid to speak out against corruption and cartel influence because doing so can amount to a death sentence for them and/or their loved ones. It could be legislation and politics that end up being the decisive factor in this conflict. This subject merits painstakingly detailed research and attention in identifying the way forward for a stable Mexican state. Corruption is undoubtedly the biggest and most complex problem plaguing Mexican and American security.
The importance of Mexican security to the US cannot be understated. Nor can the dire situation in which the GOM and its people find themselves. The deteriorating situation demands bilateral action. Plan Colombia offers the rough draft. Despite its flaws, Plan Colombia demonstrates that the US can defeat insurgencies hostile to its interests without American boots on the ground. Such a campaign in Mexico would rely on the replication of the rapid increase in proficiency of Colombian special operations forces. With Americans advising and teaching, Mexico must create a robust special operations capability to start dismantling Mexican DTOs. US officials would also be wise to have the US act as a facilitator for Colombian special operations forces to whom would fall the task of training their Mexican counterparts, allowing the US to maintain a politically advisable low profile. Mexican commandos on par with US and Colombian operators would be a significant hindrance to the cartels, forcing them to change how they conduct all aspects of their operations. The presence of a highly trained force of indigenous operators could also foster the conditions for a nation-wide COIN campaign to clear cartel-controlled areas.
These commandos cannot act without solid intelligence. Again, the US must assist. Working with the NSA to monitor communications among the cartels, the GOM must focus all of its available resources on listening to what the DTOs are saying, especially through electronic means. Similar to how the FARC was undone in Colombia, greater intelligence will allow accurate raids and drone strikes against the cartels. Furthermore, the GOM must be able to locate and engage DTOs in conjunction with special operations raids. American drones will play a critical role here, until Mexican forces can conduct these operations independently. The US must provide the platforms and training necessary for the GOM to develop these capabilities in the form of advisory roles and military aid packages. With a robust ISR capability, the Mexican military and police forces will be able to gather more actionable intelligence and act on it quickly.
Law and order in Mexico has already been severely compromised and the freedom of her people is at stake. In an era where the US fears the plethora of dilemmas associated with political instability, it needs only look across its own border to see the most menacing of such threats. As DTOs take an increasing amount of territory and lives, the lawless conditions in Mexico will become an increasing threat to American national security. Plan Colombia can serve as an initial blueprint for addressing that threat, as restricting the reach of the drug cartels becomes just a Mexican problem.
Further research should be accomplished on what a hemisphere-wide campaign against DTOs would look like. The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has already released a policy brief that addresses that question and recommends:"The United States should respond by integrating its counternarcotics and security assistance, operations, and, as appropriate, intelligence efforts throughout the region into a single, streamlined strategy."[xxiii] The US would be wise to spearhead an effort that united all of Latin America to crush the DTOs plaguing the region by focusing on each nation's specific problems, such as the enormous drug market within the US. This paper has argued that, drawing from Plan Colombia, special operations must be trained and employed in Mexico as the beginning of a long term reconstruction of the country.
 Office of the United States Trade Representative. US-Mexico Trade Facts. Executive Office of the President, 2013, http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/mexico (accessed February 23, 2014).
 Evelyn Krache Morris."Think Again: Mexican Drug Cartels," Foreign Policy, December 3, 2013, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/03/think_again_mexican_drug_cartels (accessed January 14, 2014).
 Ray Walser, 'U.S. Strategy Against Mexican Drug Cartels: Flawed and Uncertain,' The Heritage Foundation. April 26 2010, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/04/us-strategy-against-mexican-drug-cartels-flawed-and-uncertain (accessed October 10, 2012).
 Sara Miller Llana,"With 60,000 dead, Mexicans wonder why drug war doesn't rate in presidential debate," The Christian Science Monitor, October 23, 2012, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2012/1023/With-60-000-dead-Mexicans-wonder-why-drug-war-doesn-t-rate-in-presidential-debate (accessed February 23, 2014).
 Peter A. Lupsha, 'Drug Lords and Narco-Corruption: The Players Change but the Game Continues,' Crime, Law and Social Change 16, no. 1 (1991): 41.
 The"War on Drugs" refers to the general effort of the American government to halt the drug trade. For the purposes of this paper, it refers only to efforts occurring within Latin America.
 Bob Killebrew and Jennifer Bernal, 'Crime Wars: Gangs, Cartels and U.S. National Security,' Center for a New American Security, September 2010.
"Merida Initiative," US Department of State (Washington D.C.) http://www.state.gov/j/inl/merida/ (accessed November 14, 2012).
 Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, 'United States Support For Colombia,' US Department of State, March 28, 2000, http://www.state.gov/www/regions/wha/colombia/fs_000328_plancolombia.html (accessed September 25, 2012).
 Shifter,"Plan Colombia: A Retrospective."
 Martinez, 'Mexico's Commercial Insurgency."
 FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency (Washington D.C.: Headquarters Department of the Army, 2006): 5-51 – 5-78.
 Hylton, 'Plan Colombia: The Measure of Success,' 12.
 Juan Guillermo Mercado,"Desmovilización, principal arma contra las guerrillas," El Tiempo, September 22, 2013, http://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/desmovilizacion-principal-arma-contra-las-guerrillas_13077339-4 (accessed March 8, 2014).
 Mackenzie Eaglen,"Green Berets' Value Is Proven in War on Drugs," New York Times, September 5, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/05/08/should-us-troops-fight-the-war-on-drugs/green-berets-value-is-proven-in-war-on-drugs (accessed April 22, 2014).
 Many Mexicans contend today that the Mexican-American War of 1848 was not a war with equally culpable participants, but an American invasion aimed at seizing territory.
 Robinson,"The Future of Special Operations: Beyond Kill and Capture."
 Mark Bowden, Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw (New York: Penguin, 2002).
 Dana Priest,"Covert action in Colombia," The Washington Post, December 21, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2013/12/21/covert-action-... (accessed May 4, 2014).
 Benjamin Bahney and Agnes Gereben Schaefer,"Assessing Mexico's Narco-Violence," The San Diego Union-Tribune, May 14, 2009.
 Hylton, 'Plan Colombia: The Measure of Success.'
 Killebrew and Irvine,"Security Through Partnership: Fighting Transnational Cartels in the Western Hemisphere."
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- Nigeria's Bright and Young Mean Business
- Mangos, Not Mining, the Future of Guinea
- Guinea: How to Stamp Out Corruption in the Mining Sector
- West Africa's Vast Marine Wealth Being Depleted
- Nigeria's Economy About to Achieve Global Status
- Nigeria: Progress and Crisis Will March Hand in Hand
- Superpowers Making Strategic Moves in Africa
- Mandela's Gift: A Model of Leadership
- Two Mandelas
- Steve Biko: Father of Black Consciousness
- International Justice Should Prosecute Beyond the Bounds of Africa
- Africa: The Growing Continent
- Mali: After the War, The Hard Part
- Nigeria's Squandered Opportunity
- Victims of Forgotten War Need the World's Attention
- China Works to Improve Image in Africa
- Is Japan's Prime Minister the Next Putin?
- Cambodia's Remarkable Journey
- India: Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Flares Up
- China Pulls Pollution Documentary
- India: Worshippers in Cremation Ritual
- Japan: World's Oldest Celebrates 117th Birthday
- Japan: Cats Overrun Island
- Mass Wedding in South Korea
- South Korea: Ending International Adoptions
- The New Face of Chinese Repression
- China's Economic Slowdown and the Necessity of Reform
- China's Crazy Plan to Mine the Moon
- The Good Life of the Newly Rich in China
- North Korea's History of Broken Nuclear Promises
- North Korea In Numbers
- Hong Kong: Pragmatism vs Liberalism
- Great Gamble on the Mekong
- Indonesia's Seaward Shift
- The New Nuance in Chinese Diplomacy
- China Now Top Economy
- Nuclear War Threshold Keeps Dropping
- China's Interest in Defeating ISIL
- Japan Is Antagonizing Everyone
- China and The United States: The Dance of Superpowers
- South Korea: The Politics of Patience
- Fishing for Peace in Korea
- Hong Kong is not Tiananmen
- Why China Won't Talk to Hong Kong's Protesters
- Hong Kong: The Future of People Power?
- Can China Pacify Its Minorities?
- Pragmatism Challenges Superpower Status
- A Capitalist in North Korea
- Japan Still Hobbled by Racism and Militarism
- The Tao of North Korea
- Political Turmoil and the Pakistani Army
- The Indian Jihadist Movement: Evolution and Dynamics
- India's New Leader Could Have Global Impact
- Third Obama Disappointment Seems Imminent
- United States and China Go Private with the Cold War
- Trans-Pacific Partnership Bad Deal for America
- Mao's Little Red Book: China's Spiritual Atom Bomb
- The Rise of China and Its Impact on International Economic Governance
- Examining China's Strategic Interests in Latin America
- Crusade Against Cronyism Shaking Up India's Political Landscape
- Benazir Bhutto's Assassination: The Case Goes Cold
- Is China Copying the Old Imperial Japan?
- Learning The Wrong Lessons from the Three Gorges Dam
- In India Book Withdrawal Sparks Criticism
- Japan's Sun is Rising Again
- Why North Korea Today is Not East Germany 1989
- Afghanistan: Americans Show More Signs of War Fatigue
- Learning to Look on the Bright Side Chinese Style
- India: A Sacrifice That Went Unrecognized
- China's Space Program Tries to Catch Up
- India's Neglected Generation
- Can Taiwan Pull China Toward Democracy?
- America's Pivot to Asia a Misguided One
- China's Low-Profile Imperialism
- Dicing with Death Penalties in Indonesia
- Afghanistan: Talking to the Taliban
- A Costly Effort in Afghanistan
- Responsibility for Asian Sweatshop Safety Lies with Us, Too
- Asian Sweatshops: A Floor of Decency
- China and North Korea: A Tangled Partnership
- North Korea Following a Well-Worn Pattern
- Europe & Islam: The Way Forward
- Putin & the Irony of Helsinki
- Russia's Defense Industry
- Turning the European Debt Myth Upside-Down
- French Extremists Find Platform in Terrorist Propaganda
- How Counterterrorism Expert Views Paris Attacks
- Charlie Hebdo, Islamophobia and the Freedom of Expression
- Does The Quran Forbid Images Of The Prophet Muhammad?
- Cartoonists' Solidarity For Charlie Hebdo
- Charlie Hebdo Attack Vigils Held Around the World
- France Falls Silent for Victims
- France's Deadly Attack Will Not Be the Last
- How Will Europe Handle the Rise in Terrorist Attacks?
- French Hold 'Je Suis Charlie' Vigil
- Attack Fails to Silence Paris
- Paris Attack: Marginalized Islamic Society Partly to Blame?
- Famed Cartoonists Among Dead at Charlie Hebdo
- Charlie Hebdo and Islam: The History of Its Satire
- Hungary's Irregular Border Crossings
- Whither Ukraine's Revolution?
- Before Solidarity, There Was the Polish Church
- Public and Private in Poland
- Greece, Cyprus Determined to Thwart ISIL
- Greeks Prepare for Elections
- Rebooting EU Foreign Policy
- NATO: Rebellion in the Ranks?
- The Bildt-Sikorski Effect
- Germany's Islamic State Problem
- Conflict Resolution and German Reunification
- Polish Activists on the Cutting Edge
- The Strange Non-Death of Polish Neoliberalism
- Poland: Land of Junk Contracts
- Scotland, Nationalism, and Freedom
- Greece: The Story of OXI Day
- How Hard Times Are Healing Bosnia
- NATO, Russia and Ukraine: Roulette or Reset?
- How Putin Could Defeat NATO With Nukes
- The Lesson of Russia's Serial Treaty Violations
- Ukraine: Red Meat for the NATO Alliance
- Outcome of the European Parliament Elections
- The Tea Party Lives -- in Europe
- Europe: The Social Immune System
- Ukraine: The War to End All Wars
- What Ukraine Really Needs
- The Rich List and The West's Culture of Envy
- What do the Putins of the World Want?
- Putin's Well-Worn Fascist Lies
- How the Russian Intelligence Mind-Set Differs From America's
- The Right Rises Again in Europe
- Germany's Elite Falling Out of Love with EU
- Euroskepticism and Political Fragmentation in the EU
- Ukraine: Not Time to Turn Virtual War into Real One
- Outcome of the French Municipal Elections
- Why This Cold War Reboot is Different
- Next Step in Ukraine Crisis is Unknown
- Ukraine and Russia have Created an International Disorder
- Reforms Push Greece to Economic Recovery
- Superpower Europe or Disintegration?
- Obama Clings to Diplomacy to Resolve Ukraine Crisis
- Obama's Diplomatic Dance with Putin is a Sad Sock Hop
- Legacy Of France's Colonial History Being Played Out in Paris Suburbs
- Russia: Not Your Father's Cold War
- Dangerous Mischief-Making in Ukraine
- Russia: What Do United States and the West Now Want?
- How to Rein in Putin
- Export Opportunity to Ukraine, Not Ukrainian Nanny State
- Obama Rules Out Military Solution on Ukraine
- Hitler Analogy Overstates Situation in Ukraine
- Why The West Shouldn't Abandon Russia's Reluctant 'Little Brother'
- The Year of the Russians
- Ukraine Only Promises Trouble for Russia
- Venice: La Serenissima Turns the Tide
- We Cannot Afford to Forget Bosnia
- Serbia Focuses on EU and Reforms
- Turkey & Armenia: Are Erdogan's Condolences a Turning Point?
- Spain's Unemployment Rate Should Improve
- The West Needs Russia's Help More than it Realizes
- Obama's Cool-headedness is Diplomacy, Not Appeasement
- Ukraine and the 'Little Cold War'
- Obama in Denial on Russia
- Ukraine: Beautiful Kiev has been Brutalized
- The Untold Story of the Ukrainian Revolution
- The Dark Side of the Ukraine Revolt
- Ukrainian Uprising is a Rebellion, Not a Revolution
- Why Greeks are Leaving Athens for the Good Life
- Greece to Develop Former Athens Airport Site
- Greece Hopes to Rejuvenate Privatization Effort
- What Happens Now in Ukraine?
- Switzerland and the Growing Resistance in Western Europe
- Dispute of Ukraine's Relationship with Russia Rages On
- Demystifying the Media Caricatures of Pussy Riot
- Coverage of Hollande Displays Media's Misplaced Priorities
- Hollande-Trierweiler Split and The Question of Marriage
- Postwar Era Has Ended, But Not Appetite For War
- A Flickering Flame of Faith in Sochi's Oldest Orthodox Church
- Ireland: From WWI Conflict to Respect
- The Pentagon's Italian Job
- Europe's Deadly Borders
- Expansion and Contraction of the Fourth Estate in East-Central Europe
- Bulgaria's Ataka Party: An Unlikely Blend of Left and Right
- Bulgaria: Old Tanks and Modern Mayhem
- The Former Yugoslavia: Nationalist Passions vs Political Interests
- The Former Yugoslavia: 'We Were So Close to Preventing Genocide'
- EU-Latin American Cooperation: An Affair of One?
- An Unprecedented Uprising Against Impunity in Guatemala
- Ecuador Puts Piketty Into Practice
- The Twin Ocean Project: South America's Transcontinental Railroad
- Venezuela to Consider Ban on Transgenic Seed
- Eloria Noyesi: Colombia's Potential Solution to Eradicating Illicit Coca
- A Journey Toward Colombian Unity
- David and Goliath in the Amazon
- United States Ties with Mexico's Military Have Never Been Closer
- Mexican Elections: A Battle Between the PRI and the PAN
- Cuba's Coming Out Party
- Authoritarian Symps
- Healing or Harming? The Provision of Health Care by Peacekeepers
- Can the Violence in Honduras Be Stopped?
- Ecuador: All You Need Is Love and Oil?
- Murder, Espionage, and Debt in Argentina
- Argentina's Tangled Web
- Human Rights Violations in Brazil
- Paraguay's Legacy of Violence
- Nicaragua Canal: Critics Line Up
- Why Obama and Congress Should Go Further With Cuba
- U.S. Cuban Relations Reimagined
- Obama Corrects a Historic Mistake on Cuba
- Brazil's Presidential Elections
- Brazil's Struggle with Gang-Run Slums
- Ebola: Is Cuba Caring too Much?
- The Mass Shooting in Mexico
- No Happy Ending to the Child Refugee Crisis
- The Decline of American Influence
- More Than a Mexican Problem
- Mexico's Hidden Epidemic
- Venezuela Progresses in Battle Against Contraband
- The Challenges of Panama's President
- Low Point of US - Cuba Policy
- Cuba's Currency Conversion
- Colombia's Challenger Vows Hard Line on Venezuela
- Pope Francis Carrying Out Silent Diplomacy in Argentina
- Many Expect Post-Kirchner Economic Boom in Argentina
- In Cuba, Technology May Beat Censorship
- Chile's Success Story May Be at Risk
- The Future of Latin America's 'Growth Engine'
- Santos May Oversell Colombia Peace Deal
- Uruguay Wrong About Not Taxing Pot
- Latin America's Growing Press Freedom Troubles
- Believers in U.S. Decline Will Be Disappointed
- Vargas Llosa Deserves Nobel for Courage
- Latin America's Other Big Internet Problem
- Costa Rica's New Leader Says He's a 'Moderate' Leftist
- Latin America's Economic Forecasts May Be Too Rosy
- Cuban Twitter Project was a Tweet in the Dark
- Venezuela's Best 'Anti-Coup' Medicine - Dialogue
- Latin American Inventors Thrive in United States
- Who's Winning, Who's Losing Innovation Race
- Russian Bases in the Americas: A Bluff?
- Colombia's Santos Re-election Won't Be Easy
- Bachelet's Chile Moving Closer to Venezuela?
- OAS Vote for Venezuela and Maduro May be Short-Lived
- Mexico's New Friend: Castro's Cuba
- Getting the Poorest 4 Billion Online
- Examining China's Strategic Interests in Latin America
- Argentina Forced By Ailing Economy To Change Populist Policies
- Trying 'El Chapo': Let's Let Mexico Handle This
- What's Wrong About 'El Chapo's' Capture
- Venezuela's Maduro Faces Hard Choices
- Should U.S. Cut Venezuelan Oil Imports?
- 10 Questions for Venezuela's President
- Venezuela Protests: The View from West Caracas
- United States Shouldn't Rescue Socialist Venezuela
- Chile: President Pinera Leaves Office on a High Note
- Cuba Poll Won't Change U.S. Policy
- Venezuela's Biggest Enemy: Hyperinflation
- Argentina has a lot in Common with Justin Bieber
- Summit in Cuba Mostly Political Tourism
- South America May Not Head Zimbabwe's Way
- Latin America Will Do Well, But Not Great, in 2014
- Latin America's Low Philanthropy Ratings
- Miss Venezuela's Murder Reveals Culture of Violence
- Zapatista Rebellion Failed to Help Mexico's Impoverished
- Mexico: Will Los Zetas Unravel Without Their Leader?
- The New Nicaragua Canal: China Barges In
- Is Cuba Lightening Up on Dissenters?
- At the UN, a Latin American Rebellion
- Latin America's Anti-Intervention Bloc
- Latin American Leaders Bring Drug Policy Debate to the UN
- Two-Track War Against ISIL
- The Need for a New Syrian Narrative
- Why ISIS Exists
- Why Are Women Joining the Islamic State?
- When Bibi Came to Town
- The Geopolitics of Speeches
- 10 Reasons I'm Praying for AIPAC's Decline
- Understanding Turkey's Tilt
- Some Good News from the Middle East
- ISIS Unites the World
- An Eritrean in Israel
- Global Warming Triggered Syria War
- Is Turkey Holding Up a Resolution in Syria?
- Does Syria See the U.S. as an Ally?
- Nationalism under Pressure: Islamic State, Iraq and Kurdistan
- Syria's Future and the War against ISIS
- The Syrian Labyrinth
- So, Islamic State, You Want to Rule a Caliphate
- Wanna-Be's Doing Islamic State's Bidding
- Is ISIS Capable of Nuclear Terrorism?
- Khomeini Drew the Line at Nukes
- Israel's Lack of Interest
- Recognizing Palestine
- Gaza: Bipartisan War on Human Rights
- Iraq Long Awash in Carnage
- Turkey's Dealings With ISIL
- In What World Are the Kurds as Dangerous as the Islamic State?
- Iran: Netanyahu UN Speech Baseless
- Without Iran, Coalition to Confront ISIS is Doomed
- Treat ISIS Like an Onion
- Turkey & Israel: There and Back Again
- Kingdom of Slaves
- Six Steps Short of War to Beat ISIS
- How the U.S. Enabled ISIS
- Intra-Jewish Discrimination in Israel
- Israel's Nuclear Weapons Program
- Restricting Egypt's Public Space
- Obama Could Spare Israel Terrible Outcome
- John Kerry's Folly in the Middle East
- Israel Projects Its Own Nuclear Behavior on to Iran
- New Books: Spotlight on the Middle East
- Getting the Poorest 4 Billion Online
- Overcoming the 'Manufactured Crisis' with Iran
- Certainties That Underpin Saudi Arabia Need Reappraisal
- Did Nonviolence Fail in Egypt?
- American Departure Will Leave Behind Carnage and Ruin
- Syria: The People Have Lost Their Voice
- Zbigniew Brzezinski on How to Avoid a New Middle East Explosion
- Why Are Governments Not Looking After Themselves?
- Isolationist Instincts of Americans are Sound Ones
- Obama Firm: No Boots on the Ground in Iraq
- Syrian Refugee Plan Poses Security Risks
- Egypt: How the Brotherhood Failed
- Rays of Hope in Egypt
- Syrian Dead End
- Egypt: The Opposition's Next Steps
- Egypt: Persistent Issues Undermine Stability
- The Next Phase of the Arab Spring
- The Foreign Policy Impact of Iran's Presidential Election
- Turkey's Violent Protests in Context
- Then What in Syria?
- The Monotonous Middle East
- Yes, Black America Fears the Police
- New Boston Bombing Video
- Obama's Last National Security Strategy
- What We Lose with a Privatized Postal Service
- Wal-Mart Does Something Right
- Guantanamo Bay's Place in U.S. Strategy
- Obama Corrects a Historic Mistake on Cuba
- Why Obama and Congress Should Go Further With Cuba
- U.S. Cuban Relations Reimagined
- China and The United States
- Tensions in the Arctic
- Ebola and Moral Panic
- What West Africa Can Teach the U.S. About Ebola
- Everything Wrong with Obama's War on ISIS
- Maya Angelou was Deeper than a Pithy Quote
- Give Killers Coverage, Not A Soapbox
- Our Culture Behind Wisconsin Girls' Stabbing Case
- Are Hispanics in Danger of Becoming White?
- Obama Outlines the Limits of Foreign Intervention
- Just Don't Call It 'Reparations'
- Small Men with Ugly Thoughts, Expressed Aloud
- It's Time to Show Our Veterans Some Love
- Justice for All, Except Those Too Big to Jail
- On the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
- Policing Thought Crime
- Turmoil and Intimations of Gender Bias at The Gray Lady
- Jayson Blair and All The Lies Not Fit to Print
- Mental Illness and Guns have Created a National Epidemic
- Army of One
- Mass Killers Hold Culture and Country Hostage
- Florida Governor Takes Deep Dive into Climate Change
- Charlie Christ Flip-Flop is a Bad Idea
- Botched Execution Should Be Death Knell of Capital Punishment
- Cruel and Unusual Ways of Execution
- Bring Back Firing Squads? We Do Worse
- Clayton Lockett: A Just Execution, Regardless
- Supreme Court Rules 5-4 on Public Prayer
- Supreme Court Rules on Public Prayer -- But Should It?
- John Kerry Warns of Excessive Isolationism
- Obama's Foreign Policy Nonexistent
- On Race: Meet Dumb and Dumberer
- Believers in U.S. Decline Will Be Disappointed
- A Nation Divided with Liberty and Justice for Some
- Can Ethnic Hate Be a Mental Illness?
- Pulitzer Committee Makes Stand for Free Press, Accountable Government
- NRA Members Need To Step Up on Ending Gun Violence
- Military Chief's Plea: Put Returning Soldiers to Work
- Home from War, Our Soldiers Continue to Die
- Better Gun Laws Needed to Protect Mentally Ill and Rest of Us
- Guns: Monsters in Our Midst
- The Knowing Donald Rumsfeld
- United States Never Reaped Bonus of Post-Cold War World
- America's Quiver of Outrage is Empty
- U.S. Foreign Assistance: More Guns than Butter
- Infrastructure Terrorist Attacks Cause for Concern
- Obama's Disposition: Combine Threats with Accommodation
- The Good and the Bad of North America Summit
- Sincerest Sympathy to the Filthy Rich
- Asphyxiating Education
- Welcome to Florida, Where the NRA Rules and We Proudly Stand Our Ground
- Trigger Happy in Florida: The Gunshine State
- If It Doesn't Work, It Doesn't Work. Period
- The Fourth Amendment is Going, Going ...
- Americans Shunning the 'Evil Weed' and Embracing Another
- Nuclear Safety Issue Lingers
- Robert Gates Reflections Flawed on America's Last 40 Years of War
- Detroit's Decline Did Not Have to Happen
- Triumph of the Vulgarians
- Keeping the NSA in Perspective
- There Ought to Be a Better Law
- Fracking: A Deadly Power Surge
Article: Courtesy of International Relations and Security Network (ISN)
"More Than a Mexican Problem"